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Mediapod - click opera
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Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 10:45 am
Mediapod

I've spoken before about my love for Tokyo-based architects Atelier Bow-wow. Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kaijima have been working under that name (and its Japanese version, Atelier Wan-wan) since 1992. Whether they're making buildings, exhibitions or books (like 2001's influential "Pet Architecture"), their work keeps returning to certain themes and "keywords"; it's modest, dense, organic, somewhat haphazard, unfinished and lo-fi, made with cheap materials in unexpected corners. Here, for instance, is a lovely Atelier Bow-wow piece, made this year, a "mediapod":

The mediapod is not only a beautiful, slightly self-mocking visual corollary for the information-mania of the modern subject—I know this is pretty much how I live—it also looks like the dense book-filled rooms used for centuries by Japanese writers and illustrators, piled to the ceiling with books and scrolls, or the cluttered otaku-space Kyoichi Tsuzuki documents in his Tokyo Style book. Tsuzuki traces this back to the hermetic tradition of asceticism spelled out in 13th century classic Hojoki, "the ten foot-square hermitage". But if this is famine in terms of materials, it's feast in terms of information; the aesthetic is one that revels in clutter, and finds the look of raw storage, particularly cultural storage, a friendly and reassuring one.

So it's entirely appropriate that Atelier Bow-wow were called in to style Japan's most exciting art fair, the Yokohama Triennale, which opened (a year later than scheduled) last month. I was at the first Yokohama Triennale, back in September 2001. The main thing I remember was being very impressed by John Bock's installation. The space itself, a series of white cubes in two warehouses, wasn't particularly memorable, though; the white cube is, after all, designed to be completely self-effacing, to let the art do the talking.

This time, though, as Daikanyama-based curator Roger McDonald says on his blog, "the ambience of the spaces is industrial, rough and exposed. I heard from one of the curators that pigeons nesting in the roof rafters remains an issue, and that the organisers had to clean away years of pigeon shit before beginning the exhibition installation". As pet-lovers, though, the Bow-wows have built the pigeons into the presentation rather than banishing them. And as photos on Roger's blog reveal, the metaphor this year has switched from the white cube to the packing case. Atelier Bow-wow (assisted by Workstation) have, says McDonald, "constructed an exhibition which remains very much 'under construction' and purposefully un-polished. No straight white walls have been built, and instead wooden containers have been placed at various angles within the large spaces to contain works. These containers remain un-painted, their structures exposed on the outside. There is an abundance of scaffolding around the exhibition too."



As someone who often walks past building sites thinking "It'll never look or smell as beautiful as that when it's finished", I appreciate this packing case idea a lot. (Atelier Bow-wow themselves call their aesthetic da-me or "no-good architecture".) One of the thrills of these big art shows is the sense of fresh ideas coming out of boxes, the idea of global trade itself, the international trade in embodied concepts. The raw chipboard and wood has a fresh, temporary smell which adds to the excitement of the art itself.

My first exposure to Atelier Bow-wow came in the 1999 exhibition Cities on the Move, which presented density, modesty and temporariness as specifically Asian virtues. Atelier Bow-wow have been developing these ideas since then — the Yokohama packing cases are direct descendents of the design of their contribution to the 2003 show at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, "How Latitude Becomes Form", where they contributed "Pet Architecture (Architecture for Temporary Autonomous Sarai)".

It makes sense that Atelier Bow-wow should turn two working dockside warehouses into places where visitors can feel the excitement of the fresh arrival of cultural goods. What are these vast sheds, in the end, but two huge mediapods you're welcome to come and root around in?

36CommentReplyShare


imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 10:47 am (UTC)

The nice thing is that it looks like it would be quite easy to build, if you have a few basic woodwork skills. Not that I do, mind you...


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 11:04 am (UTC)

Wow, the design of the mediapod beats me. That it looks like "the dense book-filled rooms used for centuries by Japanese writers and illustrators, piled to the ceiling with books and scrolls" makes it even better. Was it in the history books Atelier Bow-wow found the inspiration to the mediapod?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 11:14 am (UTC)

I don't know, I just know that it looks a lot like photos I have of Japanese writers in a lovely book someone gave me years ago — Mishima, Kawabata and so on, invariably sitting on tatami mats with a cat and a cup of tea and a low kotatsu table, surrounded on all sides by stacks of books on shelves that go all the way to the ceiling, from which hangs a single round bare bulb on a wire, with a flat switch on the mount.

They call their style "da-me architecture", or "no-good" or "failed" architecture, and draw inspiration from the eel houses of Tokyo, residential or commercial space jammed into tiny corners, with odd angles, spaces that, anywhere else in the world, would be inhabited by pigeons, spiders... and eels, presumably. (They're called "eel houses" because an eel can coil itself into any shape.)


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nickink
nickink
Nick Ink
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 11:24 am (UTC)

Got to add my voice to the chorus of approval for the mediapod. fantastic. My wife says she's going to build one - she's certainly the one with the woodwork skills in the Ink household.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 11:26 am (UTC)

Here's a closer view:


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nicepimmelkarl
.
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 11:59 am (UTC)

there's only one mediapod. let's call it think-tank. sorry i'm a pessimist.


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klasensjo
klasensjo
klasensjo
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 12:02 pm (UTC)

I love Atelier Bow-wow. There was a documentary about them on Swedish TV a couple of weeks ago. They promoted the concept of "Micro Public Space", as featured on the pictures you posted. It stuck in my head and will probably be quoted in the future. They have adapted to the reality of these densely populated areas in an attractive and friendly way...way to go.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 12:37 pm (UTC)

It's strange, with the English I only seem able to fight, but I'm always 100% in agreement with the Swedes! It must be something deep in my Scandinavian genes...


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petit_paradis
petit_paradis
erik
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 02:32 pm (UTC)

aha yes we had the mediapod shown here at the art centre rotterdam - it was eventually called mangapod.

there was a show from bow wow - where they silkscreened the photographs from the pet architecture series on white t-shirts.

the mangapod stayed with us a few months - people could leave and take books, but most of the time it was filled with old art books and cheap novel paperbacks


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jina___
jina
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 03:27 pm (UTC)
It's beautiful!

I really, really like it , all wood and...
these japanese architects are genius!
but it would be ruined if you put it in any apartment don't you think?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 03:31 pm (UTC)
Re: It's beautiful!

One of the appeals of the photos is certainly that it's a little stack of clutter standing in an empty space. That aestheticizes the clutter, makes it attractive. Perhaps you'd have to empty your flat entirely, put curved photography studio-style floor-to-wall paper gradation screens all around, then throw out everything except 50 carefully-chosen books and magazines, which you'd balance on the pod. Then you could invite an audience in to watch you read, and marvel.


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instant_c
instant_c
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 03:29 pm (UTC)
link to Bow wow video interview

LINK


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 03:35 pm (UTC)
Re: link to Bow wow video interview

Aha, what a fantastic link! Thanks!


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 04:52 pm (UTC)

that japanese bird in the hand-saw cave. what's her name? can i borrow a feelin'? stick her on top of a porsche and i bet they sell like hot-cakes.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 13th, 2005 05:00 pm (UTC)

A porsche is a breed of donkey, isn't it?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Oct. 18th, 2005 01:49 pm (UTC)

More about Hojoki from architect Tadao Ando:

"Inspired by Kamono Chomei (1155-1216), who wrote the manuscript HOJOKI in his exile for solitude, I envisioned a Glass Teahouse. In HOJOKI, Kamono Chomei took along his hermitage, a tiny 3x3 meter space, where he wrote and slept and thought about the ever-changing world, contemplating nothingness as well as infinity.... Through a simple construction, I hope the Teahouse space as a contemporary hermitage or a mind spaceship could entertain visitors by encouraging their mind into realm of unlimited imagination."


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